Saddam Hussein was born in 1937 in the village of Tikrit, Iraq. His father died around the time of his birth. His mother remarried and his stepfather is said to have savagely beat Hussein as a child. In 1958 Hussein participated in a coup that overthrew the monarchy of Iraq and made Abdul Karim Qasim prime minister. In 1959 he was involved in a failed assassination attempt on Qasim and had to flee Iraq. In 1963, after Qasim was murdered, Hussein returned to Iraq and was named assistant secretary general of the Ba’ath party. Within a few months the Ba’ath party was overthrown. Hussein was sent to prison but escaped after two years.
In 1968 the Ba’ath party regained control in a coup that Hussein helped lead. Hussein was named the vice chairman of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council and vice president under General Ahmed Hassan Bakr. In 1979 Hussein became president. Subsequently, he executed hundreds of high ranking party members and army officers who he suspected of being disloyal, beginning a long rein of crimes as Iraq’s dictator. Hussein’s brutality and willingness to torture and murder anyone he sees as a threat has earned him the moniker, Butcher of Baghdad.
In 1980 Hussein invaded neighboring Iran starting an eight-year war that ended in a stalemate and left Iraq with a 75 million dollar war debt. In the 1980’s Hussein launched attacks against the Kurds in Northern Iraq. During the campaign Hussein used chemical weapons killing thousands. He also carried out mass summary executions. Tens of thousands of noncombatants disappeared. In 1990 Hussein invaded Kuwait in an attempt to gain control of Kuwait’s oil revenues. The invasion triggered a worldwide trade embargo and Iraq was forced out of Kuwait by United Nations (UN) Coalition forces in the six-week long Gulf War.
As a result of the invasion and the Gulf War, the UN passed resolutions including Security Council Resolution 687 that requires the “destruction, removal, or rendering harmless” of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and long range ballistic missiles. The resolution called for this to be done under international monitoring and supervision. This monitoring is commonly referred to as weapons inspections.
From 1991 to 1998 Hussein’s regime was uncooperative with the weapons inspections. Inspectors were barred from many sites and items were removed from some sites prior to inspectors being allowed admittance. In one incident in June of 1991, UN inspectors tried to intercept Iraqi vehicles carrying nuclear related equipment. Iraqi personnel fired warning shots in the air to prevent the inspectors from approaching the vehicles. The equipment was later seized and destroyed under international supervision. Finally, in 1998 Hussein suspended all inspections and the UN inspectors left the country.
Since that time Hussein has continued manufacturing chemical and biological weapons and has been trying to develop nuclear weapons. Under the threat of a preemptive attack by the United States, Hussein has accepted the terms of a new UN resolution reinitiating the weapons inspections.